North Korean-based digital assets mixing company Blender.io, has been sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department. According to a Friday press release, the decision follows, after the firm’s involvement in a series of cybercrimes was established.
Speaking about the development, Brian E. Nelson — the Treasury’s Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said:
“Today, for the first time ever, [the] Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer.”
Blender.io Linked To Money Laundering
Recall that in March 2022, a North Korean-based group of hackers carried out one of the biggest cryptocurrency heists in history. That group is known as the ‘Lazarus Group.’ And from that heist, the group made away with $625 million worth of stolen digital currency.
However, new evidence coming to light now, may just suggest that Blender.io helped the hackers to launder about $20.5 million out of those stolen funds. But that’s not all about the site’s involvement in such shady deals.
Also, the Treasury levelled further allegations against Blender.io. One of such is that, ever since the firm began operations in 2017, it has facilitated the transfer of at least $500 million worth of bitcoin. And the firm is also alleged to have ties with other Russian hackers and ransomware groups. In fact, investigations thus far, shows that Blender.io have helped numerous criminal groups over the years. Some of these groups include; Ryuk, Conti, Trickbot, Gandcrab, and Sodinokibi, helping them to launder money at various times.
U.S. To Take Diplomatic Actions
Importantly, today’s sanction indicates the United States’ resolve to go all out against every form of questionable financial activity. And that includes state-sponsored criminalities and individual ones as well. However, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S will take diplomatic steps with the DPRK. In fact, Blinken also mentioned that lines are open for dialogue. DPRK means Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
Meanwhile, as part of today’s sanctions, the U.S. government also blacklisted 46 addresses linked to Blender.io, and another 4 wallet addresses tied to Lazarus Group.